Companies can get by with the pinball approach in times of workforce surpluses or in economic downturns, when unemployment rates are high. In current conditions, however, where skilled workers are scarce, and businesses are growing, companies that continue to use this strategy (if you can call it a strategy) will find themselves increasingly compromised by a lack of skilled employees and managers.
Deterministic Approaches to Career Planning
The alternative to the pinball approach is deterministic career planning. Deterministic approaches take a more formal approach to employee development and incorporate methods to move employees into the most business-critical and appropriate positions.
For instance, when a company foresees shortages in engineers or nurses, it develops specific career-planning programs to fill these talent gaps.
Deterministic approaches can be implemented at the managerial, business-unit or enterprise level. Programs can be quite complex, and at higher levels, they can take several years to fully implement. They typically include the following elements:
• A ladder of potential positions for both management and technical career paths over many years.
• A set of competencies and skills required for each position. Such information helps condition employees to look for the right positions, and it provides a coaching foundation for them to move up.
• Defined training and development programs to help employees prepare themselves for various positions in the career path.
• Self-assessments and job descriptions to help employees understand whether they are qualified or suited to the positions available.
The Business Impact of Career Planning
Data from the recently published study “High-Impact Talent Management” proves the pinball approach is failing. Figure 1 compares the pinball approach (labeled “individual career planning”) with three levels of deterministic career planning: manager, business unit and enterprise.